This was a ride I was sorry to miss last year, and missing it was one of the first indicators that I wouldn’t be finishing all fifty states in one year. It was on my radar because I know Fargo sits on the Minnesota border, and hello, we love the centuries that let us bang out two states in one day!

Initially, the logistics seemed more daunting than usual. I’d been following the Great Plains Cycling Club on Facebook, and assumed that there’d be a bike shop in Fargo I could rent from. Yes, Great Northern Cycles had bikes, but the only rentals were hybrids, and I’ve learned that lesson. So I posted to the group, while researching bike rentals in Minneapolis (and debating whether to fly Southwest into Minneapolis-St. Paul or someone else into Fargo). Lo and behold, one of my fellow riders had an extra bike, and a loan was arranged. My cousin Stephanie decided to do the ride, too, and arranged for us to stay with one of my other cousins just outside of Moorhead (Fargo’s sister city) on the farm where my mom grew up.

So, Southwest to MSP, overnight stay near the airport, early morning rental car pickup, four-hour drive to the farm, registration, meetup with my new bike friend and arrangement for the next morning, and then back to the farm for a good night’s sleep.

Except.

It was June 13. Game 5. It’s not hard to get Minnesotans to watch a hockey game. But I had an early wake-up call, and ladies-and-gentlemen, YOUR Los Angeles Kings were not securing Lord Stanley’s Cup in a timely fashion. Tie. Overtime. Double overtime. GOAL!

Bed.
Rain.

I own four different rain jackets/windbreakers/ponchos. They were all reposing in my closet back in sunny Los Angeles. Thankfully, my cousin was prepared, and close enough to my size. Off to meet my teammates, get a quick fit on the borrowed Bianchi, and have some pancakes while we watched the weather.

It was wet, but not terrible. The handful of 100 mile riders stuck together, not quite in a paceline, but close enough that I was eating spray from the rider ahead of me.

Into Minnesota, back into North Dakota before the 50 mile mark, and then suddenly flying North in one of those the-sun-is-out-and-I-am-awesome sprints.

And then we reached the turnaround point.

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You can see the exact moment the speed dropped. Headwinds.

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Somewhere around here, I got so much mud in my Speedplay cleats that I couldn’t clip my left foot back in. I tried to pedal as best I could, but my foot slipped, and the pedal smacked my untethered left leg in the back of the ankle. The pain was staggering, and I was unhitched from my peleton. You can see the next full stop – that’s where one of the bike mechanics hooked my up with some lube, and I was clipped in and made it to the finish line, snagging a QOM along the way:

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My cousin (can you believe that she’s a grandmother?) and me post-race. We did the rounds, and the longevity and youth in our gene pool is kind of crazy. And the youthfulness – this party bus below lives at one of my cousins’ homes:

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I knew I’d come up short on Minnesota miles, and persuaded myself that I’d borrow Steph’s bike Sunday morning and do a few laps around the farm, but it was raining, and I was meeting an old friend in the cities.

Okay, this reminded me of Larry:
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I got to the suburbs of St. Paul, and any plans for more cycling went straight out of my head as soon as I saw my friend. Some people you’ve known forever, and yet you have 25+ years to catch up on. And catch up we did. What kept coming up was pain – how we inadvertently cause it, how our own pain makes us careless and clumsy and hurtful, how we forgive, but can never really forget. But it wasn’t a painful night, far from it. The act of reconnecting with each other was also the act of connecting with our teenage selves and our capacity to feel deeply.

So, North Dakota done, and I’m happily taking an incomplete on Minnesota. I’ll be back, maybe to hook up with my cousins for RAGBRAI next year…

And the obligatory Lisa and dog shot:
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